It is overwhelmingly obvious that the landscape in which we do ministry has changed. The values, morals, expectations, and biblical understanding have been completely turned on its head. If we continue to do ministry the same as we have always done it, with the same assumptions then over the long haul the Church is going to find herself in trouble.
A while agoI wrote a little about how the gospel is really not good news at all this this current generation of students. And while many of our students "play ball" for us while they are under our supervision or while they frequent our programs, who they are in the rest of their life has little to no reflection of traditional, Judeo-Christian, ethic, values, or understanding. If this assumption is correct then the penal-subsitutionary atonement brand of Christianity with the discipleship bench marks of shutting down sexuality or not drinking have to change.
Here is a gospel message that seems to be actually be good news to post-modern, post-Christian people:
I find it interesting that Jesus first words to people were not a fire brand, repent for the kingdom of God is near. John the Baptist had that ministry and it was pretty successful until he got his head cut off. When you read through the Gospels, Jesus does have some stern words for the self-rightesou, but does seem to have an entirely different approach to the alienated and disenfranchised.
I would argue that our young people have much more in common with the alienated than with the rebellious sinners or self-righteous. And if that is true, the we can look and see how Jesus engages people, and when he does, it is rarely with confronting language, or finger pointing, or even rebuke. Jesus simply invites:
"Come and see . . . "
"Come and follow . . . "
"Come to me . . . "
"Come and drink . . . "
"Come and eat . . . "
Our students are lonely and alienated. They are not hopeless, broken, or sinful. (We must make sure that we don't put our wolrd-view or our experiences on theirs.) Most of those words make no sense to them. They are who they are. They are unaware that there is even a more whole version of themselves, and because they are a-moral, sin is a foreign concept and therefore you can't rebel against a standard you don't even hold true to.
However, I think there is some bad news in their life that has corresponding good news. The post-modern, post-Christian students we work with are wrestling with identity, purpose, mostly belonging. Family structures are in flux, friendships are in flux, there is a shadow of belonging through social media, but all in all, I have found that all of our students feel lonely, left out, and alienated.
Adoption is now our metaphor:
The good news is that Jesus comes to invite every body to the great banquet. Jesus is not about the insider's clique, or for those who have their life all figured out. Jesus doesn't drop the hammer on these lost an alienated people, but rather simply invites them. Invites them into the family. And when they accept this invitation, their identity fundamentally changes and they are now given a seat of honor in the family of God. And with this acceptance, they are also given purpose in the family business of expanding the kingdom of God.
The pictures of salvation used to be a courtroom with the rebellious sinner being forgiven their debt and made righteous. Then it transitioned to broken people being healed through the transforming power of Jesus. I would argue that the picture that is most relevant to our students is now one of adoption. Inviting an alienated and lost generation into the Family of God. May adoption be our paradigm and may we cast our invitations far and wide!
The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news to our students. Jesus looked upon his people not with angst or frustration, not guilt or shame. Rather he looked upon them with compassion as sheep without a shepherd, orphans without a Father. Jesus does not lay down the gauntlet, but rather invites. Let us take on the mantle of Jesus and invite our students to the great banquet, into the family of God, and to grow in purpose as we together work in the family business.
(I know what you are thinking, that this all seems wishy washy, and wondering where the discipleship process or God's standards fit into the mix. Have no fear, later this week, I will be unpacking our discipleship and sanctification process. In all of this, I hope you know this is simply how we are working this out in our context, and I would love to know how you are working it out in yours. Have a great week.)